Parkinson's disease 

Introduction 

Parkinson's disease: Karen's story

Karen Rose was diagnosed with Parkinson's at just 34 years of age. She talks about the impact it's had on her life over the past 10 years.

Media last reviewed: 22/11/2013

Next review due: 22/11/2015

Parkinson’s UK

Parkinson’s UK is the Parkinson’s support and research charity.

Their contact details are as follows:

They bring people with Parkinson's, their carers and families together via their network of local groups, online resources and confidential helpline.

They also provide information and support on every aspect of living with Parkinson's.

Living with a disability

Get practical, financial and emotional support, whether you're disabled or a carer

Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which part of the brain becomes progressively more damaged over many years (a progressive neurological condition).

The three main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are related to movement:

  • involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body – known as tremor
  • muscle stiffness that can make everyday tasks such as getting out of a chair very difficult – this is known as rigidity
  • physical movements become very slow – known as bradykinesia

A person with Parkinson’s disease can also experience a wide range of symptoms unrelated to movement (non-motor symptoms) such as:

Read more about the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Treating Parkinson’s disease

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease though a medication called levodopa has proved effective in relieving symptoms.

Unfortunately after around 3-5 years use the effectiveness of levodopa is reduced.

After this time people can experience a sudden return of symptoms (this is known as an ‘off episode’) as well an involuntary jerking of their muscles (dyskinesias). At this point additional medication is usually required.

There are also a range of non-pharmaceutical treatments that can be used to manage symptoms, such as speech and language therapy and physiotherapy.

Read more about the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in the amount of a chemical called dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body and this reduction in dopamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible.

Read more about the causes of Parkinson’s disease.

Who is affected

It is estimated that around 1 in 500 people are affected by Parkinson’s disease and there are currently 127,000 people in the UK with the condition.

The average age for the symptoms to start is around 60; although around 1 in 20 cases first develop in people aged under 50.

Men are one-and-half times more likely to get Parkinson’s disease than women.

In England, the ethnic group most likely to develop Parkinson’s disease is white people. Rates are significantly lower in black and Asian people.

Outlook

Parkinson’s disease is not fatal but the condition can place great strain on the body.

Some people respond well to treatments and only experience mild to moderate disability, while others experience severe disability.

Due to the advancements in treatment, people with Parkinson’s disease now often have a normal or near-normal life expectancy. 

In September 2013, the media reported that comedian and actor Billy Connolly had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, but is continuing to work as normal.




Page last reviewed: 10/05/2012

Next review due: 10/05/2014

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

maximilian said on 09 October 2010

Whatever else you may do if you have Parkinson''s Disease (PD), join a branch of the PD Society - now known as Parkinson's UK. This choice will open your understanding of PD, its symptoms (some say 'signs'),medication available and the benefits or problems that prevail. You will also discover that PD patients are people who have had to learn how to cope with a difficult condition. They tend to be humbled folk.

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